In response to my post about how fat hate is often about things other than our actual fat, I received comments and e-mails from people who had experiences where they were ignored, erased, or made to feel invisible. This is just another effect of the war on fat people, of the government encouraging our employers, families, friends – even fat people ourselves – to stereotype us based on how we look, and to hate the bodies we live in 100% of the time.
We get ignored and made to feel invisible- by people who work in shops, by people on the street, by doctors, by hiring directors, by teachers in everything from community classes to Masters level college courses.
We also get erased. This can happen physically – Blog readers have told me about attending weddings but finding themselves completely left out of the hundreds of pictures, fat people have been told by brides (who clearly don’t have any home training) that they are not being asked to be bridesmaids because they’ll “ruin the pictures.” Yesterday commenter Maggie talked about how she had been at a workshop for a week with classes that only had 8 other people that was shot by the town’s tourism rep – who didn’t include her in a single picture.) I had a little kid say “Mom, that lady is fat” and the mom’s response was “Don’t look at her!” This is not an episode of Dr. Who and I am not an angel statue so it’s totally ok to look at me.
Erasing can also happen emotionally. It happens when people insist that the above things don’t happen, that’s it’s all in our head. When people’s response to hearing about the stigma, bullying and oppression that fat people deal with is to try to discredit us. It happens when people try to replace our actual experiences with their made up ones about what it’s like to be fat. (I was once on the news with a celebrity personal trainer who was saying that nobody at 300 pounds could move comfortably. I responded “What he is saying does not apply to me…” and he interrupted me and said “I beg to differ.” Seriously. He disagreed WITH ME about what I SAID does and does not apply TO ME. This can be even worse for fatties with multiple marginalized identities – queer, trans*, disabled people, and people of color for example.
This isn’t fair, it isn’t something that we should have to deal with. It’s not our fault but like so much fat hate bullshit it becomes our problem.
There are some things that I do to combat this – obviously these are just my ideas – your mileage may vary, please feel free to ad yours to the comments.
- Take pictures and post them on social media (I even have a gallery on this blog)
- Get in front of the camera at events you are at
- Say something when you see people replacing other people’s actual experience with their own stereotypes/prejudices etc.
- Stand firm in your right to be the best witness to your experiences.
- Share your experiences – tell your story.
Of course nobody is every obligated to do any activism at all, I think that in the end the most important thing to remember is that it’s other people’s behavior that’s the problem, not our bodies.
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